Girl pays tennis tribute to memory of her mother

PLAYING AROUND

May 13, 2001|By LOWELL E SUNDERLAND

RIVER HILL High School's tennis courts were to be filled all day yesterday, threatened showers permitting, for a youth tournament that in its second year already stands distinctive.

The tourney date, a day before Mother's Day this year, was not accidental. For the event was founded by a young girl to honor her mother, Shirley Lacy. On Sept. 3, 1999, at the age of 48, Shirley Lacy, coping with high blood pressure, died unexpectedly of an aneurysm.

Searching in her grief for what to do next, Kim Lacy, then 13, embraced doing something tennis-related, an idea that evolved from her mother's funeral and several teachers, said Judie Cephas, a resource teacher for gifted and talented students at Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup.

"I took one of my Mom's dreams, me playing tennis," said Kim, then a Patuxent Valley eighth-grader and now ending her freshman year at Hammond High School. "My mother liked to watch me and my father playing. And she really pushed me to get into this sport. She was just there for me."

Cephas said she was moved to get involved when the pastor at Shirley Lacy's funeral asked for a show of hands by women who would "help be Kim's mother."

"And I was one who raised a hand. I hardly knew Kim then, but I could really relate to her," said the teacher, her voice catching. "I was young, too, when my mother died near Mother's Day [in 1989], and you never, ever get over your mother's death."

Maybe it was coincidence or predestination, but more help was nearby. Kim's tennis-loving father, Ernest, was - and still is - a volunteer instructor for the Howard County Tennis Association, headed by Bob Weiss. Weiss bought quickly into Kim's idea, given that his group concentrates especially on pre-high school tennis in the county. More support came from Mary Nimmich, a physical education resource teacher in the county school system.

Kim helped move the tournament from concept to reality, her first tournament last May drawing nearly 60 middle-school age competitors. She was expecting about 80 yesterday, thrilled that in addition to entrants from county public schools, students from area private schools and home-schoolers want to compete, too.

"It's a free tournament, because I wanted to give middle-school students a chance to show what they have," she said. Players that young have few chances to compete in such an environment.

Said Kim's clearly proud father in the now father-and-daughter household, "It was unbelievable that she ran with this." Their townhouse in Aspenwood, on the north side of Savage, is obviously home to tennis devotees, with dozens of practice balls in racks and other tennis equipment visible.

Early last week, Kim was watching television to see Venus Williams compete in Germany, although she says she prefers the younger Serena Williams as her tennis role model.

This year's tournament carried a sub-theme reflected in posters and essays that were to be displayed at the tournament yesterday, the culmination of a contest tied to the event by middle school health teachers. Their idea: to get kids to grasp the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Top prizes went to Ellicott Mills' John Jung, for his essay, and to Patuxent Valley's Hanh Duong, for her poster.

At Weiss' behest, the tournament also honored another county cardiovascular disease victim, John Graves, a popular tennis player and organizer who died of a heart attack two years ago and has a fall tournament in Columbia named in his memory, as well.

One irony is that Kim Lacy could not compete this year in the tournament she founded; she's a year too old.

But she's still working hard to make it happen again - as well as looking forward to her second stay at the University of Virginia's summer tennis camp and hoping to make Hammond's varsity next spring.

Another Mom memory

Here's an unusual mother-and-son sports feat:

Joshua Jenkins, 13, of Ellicott City scored the second hole-in-one of his brief golf career April 28 at Willow Springs Golf Course in West Friendship. It came on a 159-yard, par 3 hole. His first, in March of last year, was on a 123-yard, par 3 hole at Queenstown Harbor Golf Links on the Eastern Shore.

"I feel lucky to have been the one playing with him on both occasions - a rarity for a seventh-grader to allow his mother to hang out with him," said Regina Jenkins.

Mom has played sweeper since 1981 on the veteran Camp Springs women's soccer team that calls Columbia home and won U.S. Amateur Soccer's Veterans Cup - the national under-40 women's championship - last summer.

The team, which competes primarily in the top level of the Women's Soccer League of Columbia, will begin defending its title in Beckley, W. Va., next month.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail tolowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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